An Indiegogo crowd-funded project is stirring up the technological world with its controversial claim to have a wristband that measures caloric intake noninvasively. Healbe GoBe has raised $1,054,316 of its $100,000 goal according to the website, drawing attention from health enthusiasts and skeptical scientists alike.
The wristband uses 3 sensors to track body activity, and is said to become more accurate over time as the device learns the behavior patterns of the individual user.
- Typical of activity trackers, the wristband has an accelerometer, which measures body movement and activity to track calories burned.
- It also uses a pressure sensor to measure blood flow and heart rate to determine how hard your body is working throughout the day (check out how heart rate monitors work in this blog post).
- But the impedance sensor, responsible for allegedly tracking caloric intake, has brought the most attention to the device by far.
How does it claim to work?
Explanations of the device’s capabilities can be summarized by the idea that when glucose enters the body in the form of food or drink, it is absorbed by cells that release liquid in response to the uptake.
The impedance sensors take readings 4 times per minute, sending low and high frequency signals through the tissue to detect the amount of liquid that the cells release. The shape of the resulting glucose curve, made up of readings taken over a period of time, can be analyzed to determine the proportion of fat and carbohydrates consumed.
When there is a higher proportion of fat in the food consumed, glucose absorption is slower. Healbe GoBe claims to have patented algorithms that come up with an estimate of caloric intake, with a 15-20% error compared to the nutritional labels of food (healbe.com).
Naturally, this bold claim raises skepticism. For one, it would be a miracle if there were a noninvasive way to measure a person’s glucose levels, a problem that has existed for generations. By selling this technology alone, a company could stand to make billions, which begs the question as to why Healbe GoBe is putting much more effort into creating a fitness tracker. As said by Dr. Peter Butler, Professor of Medicine in UCLA’s division of Endocrinology, “if [they] have this technology, [they] don’t need to find these strange uses for it. They could sell this to 35 million people in the US alone, overnight.”
As critics started attacking the vague descriptions of the device and calling the whole project a scam, refund requests began pouring in; these refunds were not taken from the fundraised amount listed on Indiegogo. Yet a few days ago, a demonstration of the device in action was witnessed by teams at Digital Trends, who wrote about it here.
So what do you think? Is Healbe GoBe a sham?
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